[Time-guns are of invariable pattern and extreme antiquity. Other species come and go; their ancestor remains always. One is to be found in each cantonment: he generally occupies a position of unsheltered and pathetic loneliness in a corner of the local parade-ground. The writer has never seen one herded in the Gun-park with his kind.]
Strong scion of the sturdy past
When simpler methods ruled the fray,
At whose demoralising blast
The stoutest foe recoiled aghast,
How fall'n art thou to-day!
Thy power the little children mock;
Thy voice, that shook the serried line,
But supplements the morning cock
At - roughly speaking - one o'clock,
And - broadly - half-past nine.
(Saving when THOMAS' deep employ
Th' attendant closing hour postpones,
And he, the undefeated boy,
To gain a temporary joy,
Hath stuffed thee up with stones.)
Thy kindred of a mushroom 'Mark,'
Young guns, intolerably spruce,
Have cast thee from the social 'park';
Which, to their humbled patriarch,
Must be the very deuce.
Their little toils with leisure crowned,
They, in their turn, will seek the Vale
Of Rest that thou hast never found;
What wonder if thy daily Round
Is very like a Wail?
Yet many love thee. Though his clutch
Be heavy, Time doth still afford
That fine consolatory touch -
It hardly seems to go for much,
But cannot be ignored.
For him that braves the midday fare
Thou hast the immemorial task
Of booming forth at one - or there-
abouts - which saves the wear and tear
Of yelling out to ask.
So, when athwart the glooming flats
Thy hoarse, nocturnal whispers stray -
Much to the horror of the bats -
We're one day nearer home, and that's
A comfort, anyway!
Then courage! Guns may come and go,
But him alone we hold divine
Whose task it is to let us know
The hours of one o'clock - or so -
And - roundly - half-past nine.